Posted on Oct. 21, 2015 at 1:30 p.m.
by Mackenzie Lyng.
No one would argue that social media is the most powerful driver of consumer culture since the advent of TV. Today there are one billion Facebook users, 560 million Twitter followers and 150 million Instagram posters. With 10 million active business pages on Facebook alone, companies large and small have quickly embraced the digital space as their marketing sweet spot. And yet, with all this hyper-exposure and connectedness between brands and consumers, could it be that consumers are beginning to feel less connected?
The saturation of digital has prompted an interesting pendulum swing – almost a backlash for some – as consumers are putting down their smartphones as they long for more authenticity, a sense of genuineness not accessible through a mobile device screen. Instead, they seek brand experiences more transparent, honest, and emotional. Most social media users are millennials. Millennials are highly informed, culturally aware and socially connected. This creative class has high standards, strong opinions and can sniff out pretense in the blink of any eye. But are millennial consumers impossible to please? Far from it! These consumers seek satisfying and mutually benefits relationships and connections, even with businesses.
So what’s a marketing team to do to project more authenticity? It will take more than ditching phony photo filters, but it certainly won’t require turning off the digital experience altogether. Businesses must adopt an identity and voice beyond the message to buy. Authenticity comes alive through strong messages about character—what you say, what you do and who you serve. Businesses must inspire, give, engage and listen on a deeper, more emotional level.
As a starting point, here are four simple guidelines to develop a strong, authentic presence:
Number 1—Be real. Express core beliefs, values and goals. Listen and understand stakeholder groups. Limit over-promotion, and, most importantly, build programs that serve more than the bottom line.
Number 2—Lead in the effort to create shared value for all stakeholders across the community. Partnering face-to-face with community groups builds respect and broadens trust with audience members. Make it more than a once-a-year effort. Creating shared value in the community should be a part of a business’ mission to influence and inspire change.
Number 3—Be accountable. Businesses must walk the talk. Our smart and savvy millennial consumers have high expectations and will see through lack of substance. To establish accountability, provide trusted, transparent information.
Number 4—Be consistent. Inconsistency causes confusion and contradiction. Millennial consumers can recognize mixed messages and will be quick make the jump from confusion to suspicion to mistrust. Inconsistency is a common mistake many business make, particularly on their social media platforms. Although it is important to properly manage social media sites, it is more important to maintain an overall consistent message and identity. This ensures trustworthiness and self-assurance.
Authenticity elevates a business above the digital noise. By investing in a positive presence and voice in community (whether on the ground or in the digital landscape) – emphasizing genuineness, shared value in the community, accountability, and consistency – businesses can foster deeper relationships with consumers and even transform them into advocates. Today, digital must achieve more than what’s cleaver, beautiful, funny or shocking. Authenticity is a new gold standard for lasting connections between a company and those they serve.